REVOLVING DOOR GREASES THE WHEELS:  Corporate PR Firm LS2Group With Deep Ties To The Branstad Administration Joins Energy Transfer Partners, Three State Agencies, For “Informal Meeting” On Bakken Oil Pipeline Proposal 

Email communication between Transfer Energy Partners and Iowa Utilities Board shows state agency may have referred the Fortune 500 oil corporation to the notorious public relations firm for assistance navigating permitting process

 

A former lobbyist for the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship who now works for a corporate public relations firm with significant ties to the Branstad Administration joined an oil corporation and three state agencies at an “informal meeting” on a proposed Iowa Bakken Oil Pipeline, records provided to Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement by the Iowa Utilities Board show.

Susan Fenton, LS2Group’s Director of Government Affairs, who worked for four years as a legislative liason for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, joined Energy Transfer Partners, the Iowa Utilities Board, the Attorney General’s office, and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources on July 29 for an “informal meeting” on the proposed bakken oil pipeline “to discuss the informational meeting and permit petition processes and requirements,” meeting notes show.

Fenton has also worked for Iowa House Republicans, including the speaker of the house and majority leader, as well as on re-election campaigns for Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and Senator Chuck Grassley.

Email records also indicate that the Iowa Utilities Board may have actually referred LS2Group to Transfer Energy Partners for assistance navigating the state’s permitting process.  On July 11, Stephen Veatch, Senior Director of Certificates and Tariffs at Transfer Energy Partners, sent an email to Don Stursma, Manager, Safety and Engineering Section at the Iowa Utilities Board, which reads, “Don – can you provide me the firms that are familiar with the IUB permitting process that you would recommend?”

“What the Iowa Utilities Board calls an informal meeting we would call a classic case of the revolving door greasing the wheels,” said Ross Grooters, an Iowa CCI member from Pleasant Hill.  “State agencies should be working to serve the public interest, not bending over backwards to help Big Oil.”

LS2Group is a corporate gun-for-hire whose senior leadership team includes vice president Jeff Boyeink, former chief of staff for Governor Branstad.  Last April, LS2Group was contracted by the American Petroleum Institute and an API front group called the Iowa Energy Forum to bring General James Jones to Drake University campus to promote the Keystone XL pipeline.  LS2Group also worked for Tim Pawlenty’s campaign during the 2012 Iowa Caucus season.

The proposed Iowa Bakken oil pipeline, if built, would transport crude, hydrofracked bakken oil from North Dakota through Iowa and eventually down into the Gulf of Mexico.  Transfer Energy Partners, a Texas-based Fortune 500 company, says they can transport as much as 420,000 barrels per day, but that the project will probably average about 320,000 barrels of crude per day.

In July, the corporation sent letters to property owners along their preferred route cutting through 17 Iowa counties asking permission to survey land.  The next step will be informational hearings in those counties, preceded by a 30-day notice, after which the Texas-based corporation may formally file a pipeline permit with the state, kicking off a public input process.  Transfer Energy Partners told the Iowa Utilities Board they hope to formally apply for a permit by the fourth quarter of this year.  The corporation cannot negotiate easements with landholders until after the 17 informational meetings are held.

According to Iowa Code 479B.8, to grant a permit the Iowa Utilities Board must determine that “the proposed services will promote the public convenience and necessity” and may impose “terms, conditions, and restrictions as to location and route.”

Iowa Utilities Board members are appointed by the Iowa governor, and the agency is part of the state’s executive branch.  Iowa CCI members this week launched a petition and Facebook page calling on Governor Branstad to use his administration’s authority under Iowa Code 479B.8 to stop the pipeline from being built.

The petition reads:  “Governor Branstad, the Iowa Bakken Oil Pipeline will be a climate disaster.  Building it could harm Iowa’s water quality, contribute to catastrophic climate change, and threaten the property rights of everyday Iowans across the state.  You must find that this pipeline is not in the public interest and reject it.”

Governor Branstad’s office has been briefed on the issue.  Ben Hammes, Branstad’s Director of Boards and Commissions, sent an email in July to the Iowa Utilities Board asking for information on the proposal.

Iowa CCI members have been contacted by some property owners along the proposed oil pipeline route and copies of the letters sent to them by Dakota Access, LLC, a subsidiary of Transfer Energy Partners, is included in the document cache.

Iowa CCI is a statewide, grassroots people’s action group that uses community organizing to win public policy that puts communities before corporations and people before profits, politics, and polluters.   

225+ Iowans Picket Terrace Hill, Demand Branstad Sign Clean Water Fight Pledge To Crack Down on Factory Farm Manure Pollution

Iowa CCI members say Iowa needs local control of factory farm siting and stronger Clean Water Act rules to force the industry to play by tougher standards or get shut down

Chanting: “Whose House?  Our House!”  and “Put People First!” – more than 225 everyday Iowans marched up Terrace Hill July 12 to the governor’s mansion to demand Governor Terry Branstad stop kowtowing to corporate ag and start cracking down on factory farm manure pollution.

The crowd, all members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI), demanded Branstad support local control of factory farm siting, and stronger Clean Water Act rules to force factory farms to obtain federal permits with tougher environmental standards or get shut down with a three-strikes-and-you’re-out policy.

The large crowd of family farmers, retired teachers, church pastors, students, and others also built a giant display of cardboard “factory farms”, a “river”, and “manure spills”, along with big signs that read “They Dump It.  You Drink It.  We Won’t Stop Til They Clean It Up.  Governor Branstad, Sign the Pledge.  We Want A Governor Who Will Clean It Up.”

Rosie Partridge, a CCI member from rural Wall Lake in Sac county, said she was there to ask Governor Branstad to sign a giant “Clean Water Fight Pledge” card that read “I pledge to fight for Iowa’s right to clean water and put people before profits, politics, and polluters.”

Partridge testified:  “Governor Branstad, during your long terms in office, you have rolled out the welcome mat for out-of-state corporate factory farms to come in to Iowa and run independent family farmers out of business.  You have vetoed money to clean up our rivers, lakes, and streams, and packed the Iowa DNR’s Environmental Protection Commission with factory farm insiders.  You have fought to put big money corporate ag lobbyists inside Clean Water Act negotiations between government regulators, and consistently put the interests of your political donors ahead of the interests of all Iowans and the environment we depend on.”

The Iowa DNR’s EPC commission will vote on draft Clean Water Act rules in August.

Iowa’s more than 20 million hogs confined in thousands of factory farms produce nearly ten billion gallons of toxic manure every year.  There have been more than 728 manure spills since 1996 and Iowa currently has more than 630 polluted waterways.

Iowa CCI is a statewide, grassroots people’s action group that uses community organizing to win public policy that puts communities before corporations and people before profits, politics, and polluters.   

Iowa CCI members held their annual statewide convention in Des Moines July 12 headlined by Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison.

Iowa Supreme Court Rules Against Farm Bureau In “Viewpoint Bias” Case: EPC Commissioners Under Fire For Conflict of Interest 

Iowa Supreme Court Case Farm Bureau vs Susan Heathcote clarifies “viewpoint bias” but leaves open question of direct and immediate financial interest charge levied at Branstad appointees to EPC by Iowa CCI, Des Moines Water Works

The Iowa Supreme Court’s dismissal of a Farm Bureau lawsuit against a former Environmental Protection Commission member clarifies the meaning of “viewpoint bias” by a public official but still leaves open the question of direct and immediate financial interest that Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) and Des Moines Water Works have levied during their Clean Water Act fight against gubernatorial appointees to the EPC like former Pork Producer president Gene Ver Steeg and agribusiness executive and political donor Brent Rastetter.

“We believe EPC commissioners like Brent Rastetter, Gene Ver Steeg, and others must recuse themselves from voting on draft Clean Water Act rules for factory farm manure polluters because the rules will directly and immediately impact their financial bottom-line and therefore lead to the appearance of impropriety and a clear-cut conflict of interest,” said Pat Bowen, an Iowa CCI board member from Iowa City.

“The Supreme Court today ruled on a case surrounding a legal definition of “viewpoint bias”, but the court did not address the issue of direct and immediate financial interest when voting on a proposed environmental rule, as we have alleged against five EPC commissioners.”

Iowa CCI members have criticized Governor Branstad, Department of Natural Resources director Chuck Gipp, and the EPC commissioners for supporting a weak, watered-down Clean Water Act rule that the statewide people’s action group says doesn’t go far enough to crack down on factory farm manure pollution.  The group says the rule should be strengthened to include mandatory permits and tougher environmental standards for every factory farm, as well as a three-strikes-and-you’re-out policy for habitual violators and stronger water quality standards such as a prohibition on manure application on nitrogen-fixing crops and snow and frozen-covered ground.

Iowa’s more than 20 million hogs confined in thousands of factory farms produce nearly ten billion gallons of toxic manure every year.  There have been more than 728 manure spills since 1996 and Iowa currently has more than 630 polluted waterways.

Iowa CCI is a statewide, grassroots people’s action group that uses community organizing to win public policy that puts communities before corporations and people before profits, politics, and polluters.   

July 8, 2014

 

FACTORY FARM DEVELOPER IS NO-SHOW AT MEETING – NEIGHBORS BRING MEETING TO HIS HOUSE

Factory Farm Being Built By Branstad Donor & EPC Appointee Would Sit Between Two Creeks That Feed Into The Des Moines River Two Miles Away

Woodward –

Fifty Boone County CCI members took their meeting to Brodie Brelsford’s house, developer of a giant hog confinement that would house 2,480 corporate hogs and produce over 630,000 gallons of toxic liquid manure annually, after he failed to show up at a community meeting.

The factory farm would be operated by Dallas County resident Brodie Brelsford but the facility would actually be built by Brent Rastetter, a top political donor to Governor Terry Branstad and a Branstad-appointee to the Environmental Protection Commission (EPC).  The submitted Manure Management Plan does not state what corporation will actually own the hogs.

Many of the neighbors were upset that Brodie didn’t show up for the meeting.  They feel that he doesn’t care about their concerns about quality of life, health and environmental impacts.

A caravan of over 20 cars traveled from the meeting near the Des Moines River to a golf course community in Perry where Brodie Brelsford lives.  After knocking on the door with no answer, neighbors of the proposed confinement posted their letter to his door demanding he cease construction immediately.

Jan Danilson, another nearby neighbor and CCI member said:  “We live on a century farm that has been in my husband’s family for over 100 years.  It’s our legacy. I want it to be a beautiful place, like it is now, in 20 years when I can give it to my children and grandchildren. We don’t want his factory farm.”

Danielle Wirth, a CCI member, neighbor, and Environmental Science Professor at Drake University, said:  “One of our biggest concerns if this factory farm builds are the environmental impacts.  This site sits in between Eversol Creek and Catum Branch Creek which meet up with the Des Moines River less than 2 miles away.  This site could have a direct impact on the Des Moines Water Works ability to keep Des Moines residents water safe to drink.”

Mark Edwards, retired DNR Trails Coordinator said: “I’m very concerned about the impacts from this factory farm and other factory farms affecting the expanding recreational economy related to the High Trestle Bridge and the master plan to develop other trails along the Des Moines River in Boone County.”

2 years ago CCI members in Dallas County stopped Brodie’s dad, Mike Brelsford, from building a 5,000 head factory farm near Minburn.  Mike Brelsford said community concerns were the reason he withdrew his application.  Boone County neighbors are upset because Brodie Brelsford didn’t ask for neighbors concerns or even tell them he was starting construction.

The Brelsfords are utilizing a loophole in DNR factory farm permitting that allows construction of a factory farm under 2,500 head of hogs without notification of neighbors or a public hearing with the county.  If built, Brodie’s factory farm would house 2,480 hogs – just 20 hogs under the permit threshold.

Iowa CCI members are in the middle of a seven-year campaign to enforce the Clean Water Act against Iowa factory farms and has called on Environmental Protection Commission member Brent Rastetter to recuse himself from an upcoming vote on new Clean Water Act rules because of a conflict of interest.  Rastetter owns Quality Ag, Inc as well as factory farms housing more than 9,000 hogs.

Local CCI members in several Central Iowa counties have fought new factory farm construction by Rastetter in the last two years.

There have been more than 728 manure spills since 1996 and Iowa currently has at least 630 polluted waterways.  Iowa’s more than 20 million hogs produce nearly 10 billion gallons of toxic waste every year.

Iowa CCI is a statewide, grassroots people’s action group that uses community organizing to win public policy that puts communities before corporations and people before profits, politics, and polluters.

 Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement is a group of everyday people who talk, act and get things done on issues that matter most. With thousands of members from all walks of life — urban and rural, black and white, immigrants and lifelong Iowans — CCI has been tackling tough issues and getting things done for more than 39 years. 

 For more information, visit www.iowacci.org

 

BOONE COUNTY RESIDENTS DEMAND FREEDOM FROM BRENT RASTETTER’S FACTORY FARM

Factory Farm Proposal By Branstad Donor & EPC Appointtee Would Sit Between Two Creeks That Feed Into The Des Moines River Two Miles Away

Woodward –

As most Iowans prepare to celebrate Independence Day, dozens of Boone county residents are preparing to defend their rights to clean air and clean water from corporate factory farm pollution.

Last Tuesday, over 20 Boone County CCI members met on a farm outside Woodward to plan how to stop a giant hog confinement that would house 2,480 corporate hogs and produce over 630,000 gallons of toxic liquid manure annually in the already impaired Des Moines River watershed that helps provide drinking water for 500,000 Central Iowans.

The factory farm would be operated by Dallas County resident Brodie Brelsford but the facility would actually be built by Brent Rastetter, a top political donor to Governor Terry Branstad and a Branstad-appointee to the Environmental Protection Commission (EPC).  The submitted Manure Management Plan does not state what corporation will actually own the hogs.

Mark Edwards, retired DNR Trails Coordinator said: “I’m very concerned about the impacts from this factory farm and other factory farms affecting the expanding recreational economy related to the High Trestle Bridge and the master plan to develop other trails along the Des Moines River in Boone County.”

Jan Danielson, another nearby neighbor and CCI member said:  “We live on a century farm that has been in my husband’s family for over 100 years.  It’s our legacy. I want it to be a beautiful pristine place, like it is now, in 20 years when I can give it to my children and grandchildren.

Danielle Wirth, PhD, a CCI member, neighbor, and Environmental Science Professor at Drake University, said:  “One of our biggest concerns if this factory farm builds are the environmental impacts.  This site sits in between Eversol Creek and Catum Branch Creek which meet up with the Des Moines River less than 2 miles away.  This site could have a direct impact on the Des Moines Water Works ability to keep Des Moines residents water safe to drink.”

Boone County CCI members plan to meet with Brodie Brelsford on Monday, July 7 at 6:30 pm in the Cass Township Community Building, 1403 315th Street, Woodward, IA.

Iowa CCI members are in the middle of a seven-year campaign to enforce the Clean Water Act against Iowa factory farms and has called on Environmental Protection Commission member Brent Rastetter to recuse himself from an upcoming vote on new Clean Water Act rules because of a conflict of interest.  Rastetter owns Quality Ag, Inc as well as factory farms housing more than 9,000 hogs.

Local CCI members in several Central Iowa counties have fought new factory farm construction by Rastetter in the last two years.

There have been more than 728 manure spills since 1996 and Iowa currently has at least 630 polluted waterways.  Iowa’s more than 20 million hogs produce nearly 10 billion gallons of toxic waste every year.

Iowa CCI is a statewide, grassroots people’s action group that uses community organizing to win public policy that puts communities before corporations and people before profits, politics, and polluters.

 Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement is a group of everyday people who talk, act and get things done on issues that matter most. With thousands of members from all walks of life — urban and rural, black and white, immigrants and lifelong Iowans — CCI has been tackling tough issues and getting things done for more than 39 years. 

 For more information, visit www.iowacci.org.

Four Things DNR Can Do Right Now To Strengthen Draft Clean Water Act Rule To Protect Iowa’s Water From Factory Farm Pollution

 

After months of writing new rule proposal with corporate ag industry input, 28-day public comment begins tomorrow, April 16, ends May 13

 

Nearly two dozen members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) members attended an Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) meeting April 15 to lay out four concrete steps the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) can take to strengthen a draft Clean Water Act rule giving state regulators the authority to permit factory farm polluters so the industry is forced to play by stronger environmental standards.

A 28-day public comment period on the draft rule proposal begins tomorrow, April 16, and ends May 13, and will include six public hearings in Mason City, Spencer, Carroll, Des Moines, Calmar, and Ainsworth.  Iowa CCI members have criticized the process that has led to this point and say both Governor Terry Branstad and DNR Director Chuck Gipp have prioritized the interests of big-moneyed corporate ag lobby groups ahead of everyday people and the environment.

“I’ve raised hogs and farmed all my life and what Governor Branstad’s DNR is allowing these out of state factory farm corporations to do to our water quality is shameful,” said Larry Ginter, a CCI member and independent family farmer from Rhodes, Iowa.  “This rule has to be stronger, because this hands-off, bare minimum approach of the Branstad Administration hasn’t worked in the past and it will not work in the future.”

Iowa CCI members say the draft Clean Water Act rule granting the DNR new permitting powers over factory farm polluters can be strengthened in four major ways:

1)       The rule should clearly state that all factory farm polluters must receive a Clean Water Act permit that forces them to abide by stronger environmental standards or get shut down.  Both Minnesota and Wisconsin require all factory farms to obtain federal operating permits.

2)      The rule should include a “three strikes and you’re out” provision for habitual violators so Iowans can shut down the worst of the worst polluters.

3)      The rule should clearly state that factory farm polluters have a “duty to apply” and that the burden of proof assuring pollution will not happen again lies with the polluter, not the DNR or the people of Iowa.

4)      The rule should require the DNR to build a comprehensive, user-friendly, online database of manure spills, Clean Water Act inspections, and permitting, so that everyday Iowans can audit the DNR’s inspections and permitting decisions and hold them accountable if they continue to kowtow to the factory farm industry.

One CCI member in attendance, Jean Lappe, drove more than three hours from Morning Sun, Iowa near the Louisa and Des Moines county borders to speak out against proposed plans by Cargill to build 13 new factory farms within 2 miles of her home.  In her testimony, she used the acronym CAFO, which stands for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation, another term for factory farm.

“How am I supposed to live with 13 CAFOs within 2 miles of my home?” Lappe asked the EPC commissioners.

There have been at least 728 documented manure spills since 1996 and Iowa currently has at least 630 polluted waterways, according to DNR records.  Some researchers have found that manure from factory farm lagoons is leaking at more than twice the rate allowed by law, and it’s anyone’s guess how many times rainwater, floods, or melting snow have run freshly spread liquid manure off of farmland and into rivers, lakes, and streams.

Des Moines Water Works has also reported some ammonia problems already this Spring that the water utility says “often” comes from “livestock operations” and “manure-fertilized fields”.  Last year, Des Moines Water Works spent nearly $1 million removing nitrates from drinking water drawn from the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers.

Factory farm expansion is also up, with nearly one thousand of the state’s 8,500 factory farms being built since January 1, 2012.   A conservative estimate finds that Iowa’s 21 million hogs produce between five and ten billion gallons of toxic manure every year.

Iowa CCI is a statewide, grassroots people’s action group that uses community organizing to win public policy that puts communities before corporations and people before profits, politics, and polluters.